Game 9 Preview: Toronto Raptors vs Minnesota Timberwolves

Toronto Raptors (3-5) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (3-5)

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Last game: Minnesota: W, 93-72 vs Washington, Toronto: L, 97-62 vs Philadelphia

All eyes are on these three guys as the Wolves clash internationally this evening.

All eyes are on these three guys as the Wolves clash internationally this evening.

The Wolves won an easy game against a bad team yesterday afternoon against Washington, blowing out the Wizards. Minnesota (aided and abetted by Washington’s terrible offense) allowed just 72 points to the Wiz, who remained winless on the season, and exited the court to boos from the hometown fans.

The Raptors, after an encouraging .500 start that included a win against the Knicks, have lost their last two games in discouraging fashion, one to New Jersey (only a slightly better team than the Wizards), and one by 35 to the surprisingly good Sixers.

The Key Questions

#1. So how good is this offense without Michael Beasley?

You may have heard about this: the Wolves moved the ball much better yesterday Kevin Love was asked what was different about Minnesota’s offense after the Washington game. His response? “Mike being out? I’m just kidding.”

I really like Beasley, but as much as it pains me to say it, that isn’t a joke. Minnesota moved the ball so much better with him out of the lineup. Better yet: Derrick Williams got a bunch of minutes he wouldn’t have gotten if Beasley were healthy, and Williams performed really well, shooting 4-7 from three point range.

If Minnesota continues to play well offensively with Beasley out of the lineup, Adelman is going to have to take a long look at the Memphis and Cleveland games and decide just how much more experimentation with Beasley this team can take. No one doubts his potential, just his potential for reaching it.

#2. How will the Wolves react to the second night of a back to back…on the road?

This question is really an excuse to say that Toronto is much better than Washington. Offensively, they are far from amazing, but new head coach Dwane Casey has them playing much better defense. They are allowing 92.9 points per game, which is 10th in the league. Andrea Bargnani will score quite a bit. Jose Calderon is consistent.

In regards to the actual question, it doesn’t seem like fatigue will be too much of an issue for the Wolves. On their second night of a back to back against San Antonio, Minnesota played their best basketball of the season. There are a few more hours for them to rest, since yesterday’s game was at noon. And for all their improvements, Toronto is not San Antonio.

#3. Will JJ Barea be back?

Yes! Finally. Barea is expected to return against the Raptors, which will add some much needed ball handling and slashing offense to the Timberwolves repertoire. He has been sorely missed.

The Key Matchups

Rubio tweeted about being excited to play Toronto yesterday, saying “Take it easy, @josemcalderon8.” Apparently, they are good friends, and have gone out to eat already, with Calderon picking up the tab. I swear I’m not creeping (I’m totally creeping). Anyway, it will be interesting to watch Rubio’s flare vs Calderon’s calmer approach.

Amir Johnson is a solid rebounder and a decent defender, but he is no Kevin Love. Andrea Bargnani is actually a decent one on one post defender, but his help defense is horrible. This might allow for some sneaking post moves which might allow for some alley oops!

People have been clamoring for Rubio and Williams to start, but honestly, both players got 30 minutes against Washington, which was tied for 3rd on the team. We’ll see what happens.

The Outlook

The Timberwolves have plenty of talent to win this game, so if Minnesota shows up focused, there’s no reason they should lose. It’s impossible to predict how ready the Wolves will be to play at this point in the season, but this is a big part of the reason they hired Adelman, a coach who can get a young team mentally prepared for a tough season.

Also, this.

Yessssss. Can’t wait for tonight.

Game starts at 6 on Fox Sports North